In 2013, the CIF San Diego Section’s Board of Managers transitioned CIF playoff divisions from enrollment to competitive balance. That placed small schools with talented programs (including private schools with no limited attendance areas) into higher divisions while placing some programs of larger schools into lower divisions.
The result meant that schools with larger enrollments often won CIF Division V championships, and in many cases the Division V playoff berths were dominated by larger schools. A proposal by small schools to split the Division V playoffs based on enrollment had no opposition during a first reading at the April 5 Board of Managers meeting, and while the first reading was a non-voting item, the proposal is expected to pass at the May 17 Board of Managers meeting.
“I’m very excited to bring this forward,” said CIF commissioner Joe Heinz. “I think there’s something we can do.”
Once all five divisions have been set, Division V will be re-ranked based on the current year’s total school enrollment. “It’s just Division V,” Heinz said. “It would not change our current competitive equity.”
For each sport, Division V would be split in half based on the total number of Division V schools that year. Schools whose enrollment is in the top half would be in Division V-A and schools in the bottom half would be placed in Division V-AA.
If a Division V-AA school requests to move up to Division V-A, the CIF will check with the schools at the bottom of Division V-A and inquire if those schools would like to move down to Division V-AA.
Teams in both Division V-A and Division V-AA would continue to use Division V points for the power rankings which are the primary factor for CIF playoff selection and seeding.
For current CIF playoffs with 12-team brackets, the playoffs would be split into eight Division V-A teams and eight Division V‑AA teams. For 16-team brackets, the revised playoffs would have 12 Division V‑A entrants and 12 Division V-AA berths. Only the Division V-A champion would be eligible for entry into state or regional playoffs.
“I think it’s an awesome idea. I couldn’t agree with it more. It’s going to bring equality to the smaller schools,” said Julian Union High School District superintendent Michael Dodson, who is the JUHSD representative on the CIF Board of Managers.
Escondido Adventist Academy, with 43 students, is the smallest school in the San Diego Section. Borrego Springs High School had 124 students at the start of the school year and is the third-smallest public school. Bonsall High School began 2022-23 with 318 students, making Bonsall the fourth-smallest public school.
“This is going to benefit our teams because we’re going to play against competition that is more on our level,” said Bonsall High School Athletic Director Andrea Breuninger.
“This is going to give us more of an opportunity when we make the playoffs,” Breuninger said. “We’re really anticipating what the CIF board is going to decide.”
Last year, Bonsall and Borrego Springs were both league champions in softball. A league champion is guaranteed a CIF playoff home game if the league has at least four teams. Bonsall won the championship for the Patriot League, which had four teams last year.
Borrego Springs was in the Manzanita League and, when Warner did not field a softball team for 2022, the league consisted of only three teams, so Borrego Springs was not guaranteed a home playoff game and the Rams traveled to Bonsall for the first round of the softball playoffs.
The split into Division V‑A and Division V-AA would reduce the possibility that the champion of a league with fewer than four schools would be omitted from the CIF playoffs altogether, which was the case with the 2021-22 Warner High School boys basketball team which won the Manzanita League championship but did not have post-season play.
Based on fall 2022 enrollment, girls volleyball would have 17 Division V‑A teams with Guajome Park Academy (515 students) being the smallest and 18 Division V-AA teams with The Preuss School (473 students) being the largest. The 19 Division V teams in 11-man football would be divided into nine Division V-A teams (the smallest being Kearny with 1,473 students) and 10 Division V-AA teams (the largest being Clairemont with 843 students).
Cross country divisions have always been by enrollment, so that will not change (that is also the case for golf, wrestling, swimming, and track and field, all of which have fewer than five divisions). The 2023-24 divisions for boys basketball, girls basketball, boys soccer, and girls soccer have not yet been set and the Division V split will also cover the spring sports of baseball, softball, and boys volleyball. Field hockey, water polo, tennis, lacrosse, and gymnastics have fewer than five divisions.